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Cuba Information - Page 2
The Arawak Indian peoples: the Gauanajatabeys, Siboneys and Tainos lived in Cuba for thousands of years before colonization by Spain. Columbus landed on the island at the end of the fifteenth century.

The Amerindians did not long survive the Spanish occupation: many died from unfamiliar diseases brought to the island by the Spanish; others died in slavery and many committed suicide rather than live under Spanish rule. African slaves were brought to Cuba to replace the indigenous people in the sugar and tobacco plantations.

In 1762, the British took Cuba after a siege of the island. Shortly after, Cuba was exchanged with the Spanish for Florida.

Cuba had grown rich from sugar, tobacco and the slave trade but unrest and rebellion against Spanish rule eventually led to the destruction of many of the plantations. After the first war of liberation, many Americans moved in and bought cheap property. Slavery did not end in Cuba until the end of the 1880s.

Josi Marti, a political activist, formed the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892. Marti was opposed to Spanish rule as well as US expansionism into Cuba and the West Indies: he was martyred in 1895 when he rode to his death into Spanish troops.

At the end of the second war of independence in 1898, an American ship, The Maine, sent to protect US citizens, exploded in Havana Harbour killing over two hundred and fifty people. The US declared war and defeated the Spanish. Following this defeat, Cuba became a republic although the US kept a degree of control in the country using troops to suppress internal unrest and protect their interests.

Tomas Estrada Palma was the first president of the Cuban Republic. A succession of corrupt regimes led eventually to the rule of General Machado, whose regime ended with the Sergeant's Revolt, headed by Sergeant Batista who eventually seized power for himself.

Batista's regime imprisoned Fidel Castro, a revolutionary and follower of the philosophy of Jose Marti. After imprisonment, Castro was exiled to Mexico where he met Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a revolutionary, intellectual and Argentine doctor who became Head of the National Bank of Cuba and Minister of Finance after the success of the Revolution.

In 1956 Castro, with eighty-one supporters, landed in Cuba. By 1959 their revolution had succeeded in overthrowing Batista. America began to oppose Castro. When the US broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a trade embargo Castro turned to the USSR for support. The 1961 invasion at the Bay of Pigs made by Cuban exiles and organised by the US CIA failed as people supported Castro.

In October 1962 America insisted that the Russian missiles, stationed in Cuba, should be withdrawn and the island was blockaded. The Cuban Missile Crisis, as it became known, brought the world close to nuclear war.

In the years since the crisis America's economic blockade of Cuba has continued. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba lost her main international support.

The US embargo on trade with Cuba has contributed to the economic problems of the Cuban economy. The USSR subsidized Cuba until its breakup in the early nineties. Despite these difficulties, the State has emphasized the importance of a literate and healthy population.

Cuba's agricultural products are tobacco, sugar, citrus fruits, pineapples, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans, coffee and rum. Cattle ranching is also important.

Natural mineral resources are chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, nickel, silica, salt and petroleum. An agreement was reached with Venezuela in 2000 to provide oil to Cuba on favourable terms.

Manufacturing centres on cigar production, pharmaceuticals (including biotechnology research and development), agricultural machinery and steel products, cement, construction and food processing.

Lack of money for importing new cars has meant that people have kept and maintained their old cars. Cubans have a number of old classic American cars which are exported to collectors.

Tourism is an important earner of foreign currency for the country. (2011)

The Cuban government has invested heavily in art education and sponsorship and funds schools of music, fine arts, ballet and dance.

Post-revolutionary poster art is accessible to everyone. Cuban artists include Viredo, Alfredo Sosabrav and many other well known artists.

Cuba has various styles of music and dance which derive from African, Spanish and Latin American music. Dances include the Cha Cha Cha, the Mambo (which originated in Cuba), the Rumba and the Cuban Salsa.

Cuba is a very successful sporting nation, despite its small size. Basketball is popular and is similar to a game played by the early inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians. Other major sports are baseball and volleyball. Soccer is becoming more popular.

Cuba celebrates Rebellion Day and Liberation Day. Jose Marti's birthday, Labour Day and the Bay of Pigs Victory Day are among the other national holidays. There are a number of other celebrations including a Jazz Festival in February and carnivals in the summer lasting between one and two weeks.

News from Cuba can be found in Newslink.

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